Editorial: Time For Complete Streets

I would rather be writing about the upcoming ski season or waxing on about how fun it can be to run in December. But the Inland Northwest experienced four car and pedestrian incidents in a single weekend at the end of November. The only thing worse than having four pedestrians collisions—one fatal and another one likely to be fatal—would be having four pedestrians collisions that nobody noticed.

If you didn’t read the coverage in the Spokesman Review here are the facts: in Spokane all three victims were women. One incident occurred in a parking lot, but the car driver was not cited. (!) Another was a hit and run where the driver was allegedly intoxicated and had been cited for DUI just a few weeks earlier.

But the last incident that occurred in Sandpoint on November 21 was a real heartbreaker. Anthony J. Joerger, who had worked on Sandpoint’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which, among other things was making recommendations on how the town could be safer for pedestrians, was killed by a pick-up truck at the intersection of Cedar and Fifth in downtown Sandpoint. According the Spokesman Review the Idaho State Patrol said the driver who hit Joerger “failed to see a pedestrian in a crosswalk at that intersection.”

Sound eerily familiar? In 2002 one of the greatest bicycle and pedestrian advocates to ever come out of the Northwest, Susie Stephens, was struck and killed by a bus at an intersection in St. Louis, as she crossed the street—also in a crosswalk. (If you aren’t familiar with Susie Stephens, or even if you are, check this amazing video of her speaking at a 1998 conference http://blip.tv/file/2730954. Thanks John Wetmore.)

“In the last 15 years, more than 76,000 Americans have been killed while crossing or walking along a street in their community. More than 43,000 Americans – including 3,906 children under 16 – have been killed this decade alone. This is the equivalent of a jumbo jet going down roughly every month, yet it receives nothing like the kind of attention that would surely follow such a disaster.” I didn’t make that up. That comes from a report called Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods), published by Transportation for America.

Can we really wait any longer to adopt a Complete Streets policy, where roads are designed for all users—including bikes and pedestrians?

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